Boba shortage affecting McAllen tea, waffle cafe

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Mcallen, Texas (KVEO) — The pandemic has created yet another shortage — this time boba, the tapioca pearls used in a popular Taiwanese tea.  

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It is already affecting Rio Grande Valley shops, like McAllen’s B’s in a Pod. William Li and his wife opened the cafe a few months before the onset of the pandemic.  

“It hit right away, and we had to close our store about a year,” he said. “We just recently opened our doors.”  

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Li said the shop is lucky to have survived and their business is picking back up, but they’re already facing issues with inventory and are bracing for a likely months-long shortage. 

“People in the valley love boba,” he said. “I would say we give them more options. Our menu is a little different; we have some pretty unique products, so they try to come out here to get our boba.”  

Their new fear is not having the supply to meet the demand for the teas, as they’re already almost out of a few boba flavors. 

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“I’m basically out of vanilla already,” Li said. “Vanilla is our ingredient for most of our specialties so that one’s almost out too. Last month I didn’t get a single bag.”  

Their suppliers are out of Taiwan and Li said they have dealt with minor shortages before, so they would order from California, which increased their costs but resolved the issue.  

“The vendor always notifies us there’s going to be a shortage,” he said. “Sometimes we plan ahead and order more to prepare for the coming shortage. Sometimes they just don’t have it at all and I can’t order more. I just have to order from California mostly. They come from there, which would be increasing a lot for our costs, but that’s nothing we can’t do.” 

However, this newest wave is unlike before.  

“This time I think it’s really bad,” he said. “All over the place, none of them have them. I keep messaging California and they’re not even responding.”  

He said their Taiwanese vendor predicts it will be at least a month or two before things get back on track, though that’s in the best-case scenario.  

“It’s probably going to last until fall or the end of the year,” he said.“There’s nothing much we can do about it.”  

Li said he’ll likely have to remove some drinks from the menu soon but is optimistic their customers will help get them through this latest challenge. And the shop also makes waffles, but with most of the customers ordering out instead of dining in, he said those sales aren’t picking up enough to make up for the impending boba shortage. 

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